ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – The St. Louis City Election Board will hold its first public meeting under new leadership Wednesday afternoon. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon hopes the change in command will restore confidence in the voting process in St. Louis City. Nixon appointed a new chairman and a new secretary Tuesday after legal challenges over how the Election Board handled absentee voting during the August primary raised questions.
“Clearly from what has happened in the last several weeks that confidence has been undermined,” the Governor said.
Friday St. Louis City Circuit Judge Rex Burlison ruled mistakes and irregularities caused by election board staff put the election results in doubt. As a consequence he threw out the results of the Democratic primary in the 78th Missouri House Representative District race between incumbent Democrat Representative Penny Hubbard and challenger Democrat Bruce Franks.
Franks had gone to court seeking an entirely new election. It took several weeks for his attorney to gain access to the absentee ballot applications and envelopes under Missouri’s Sunshine Law, evidence he needed to pursue his case.
Judge Burlison’s ruling centered on a portion of state election law that requires votes from walk-in absentee voters at election headquarters be placed in special absentee ballot envelopes, signed by the voter and sealed. This decision negated votes cast on touch-screen electronic machines.
Regulations issued by the Secretary of State’s office in 2006 permitted the use of touch screen machines for absentee voting, but Burlison’s ruling indicated the law took precedence over the regulation.
Tuesday the attorney for Rep. Penny Hubbard, Jane Dueker, filed an appeal to the ruling. Judge Burlison ordered a new primary election for the Democratic candidates take place on Friday, September 16.
Gov. Nixon replaced two election commissioners whose terms had expired, the chairwoman Joan Burger (D) and the secretary Paul Maloney(R).
Two attorneys were named to take their places. Democrat Erwin (Erv) Switzer will serve as chairman and Republican Al Johnson will take the secretary’s post. Switzer said they will make sure the special election and the presidential election in November will take place in compliance with state law.
The election board will meet at 4 pm Wednesday at its headquarters at 300 N. Tucker Blvd.